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Sen. Flake joins McCain in opposing Trump’s CIA nominee

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, pauses for reporters following a weekly GOP policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PHOENIX — U.S. Senator Jeff Flake said Wednesday he would vote against President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee, meaning the GOP doesn’t have the support of either Arizonan in the chamber.

The Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed Gina Haspel as the next director of the agency, and Republicans are pushing to have her confirmed as soon as Thursday.

“While I thank Ms. Haspel for her long and dedicated service to the CIA, as a country we need to turn the page on the unfortunate chapter in the agency’s history having to do with torture,” Flake said in a news release.

Flake followed the lead of Sen. John McCain, who last week released a statement urging Congress to reject Haspel’s nomination.

Both senators expressed concern about Haspel’s involvement in the now-defunct detention and interrogation program the CIA ran at black sites after 9/11.

“My questions about Ms. Haspel’s role in the destruction of videotapes relevant to discussions occurring in Congress regarding the program have not been adequately answered,” Flake said.

The committee voted 10-5 in Haspel’s favor, paving the way for her expected confirmation to become the first woman to lead the CIA. Republicans leaders in the Senate want to hold that vote before the end of the week.

However, in addition to Flake and McCain, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he opposes the nomination. Some Democrats could object, as well.

McCain said he understood the reasoning behind resorting to the “so-called enhanced interrogation methods after our country was attacked,” but argued that “the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world.”

Trump made another push to sway support for Haspel in a Wednesday night tweet.

Haspel’s nomination has reopened debate about the CIA’s now-defunct program of detaining terror suspects overseas at secret lock-ups and trying to get them to talk by subjecting them to sleep deprivation and other harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

Haspel supervised one of those detention sites in Thailand, but details of her work there have not been declassified.

Her nomination, however, also was applauded by former top intelligence officials and spy professionals who cited her years of experience at the CIA in mostly undercover posts both in the United States and abroad. She is currently acting CIA director.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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